[blog post started yesterday with pen and paper when on train to a meeting]
Recent experiences have forced me to assess the risk of social work services, in terms of their involvement with carers and families of people in the psychiatric system and under the mental health act. And to consider the quality of the service offered and even thrust upon the unsuspecting care giver, who is trying to do their best for their child or family member, and becomes a target for system failure.
Strong words resulting from strong feelings, rising up from the depths of disempowerment. Where motives were misconstrued, intentions misrepresented and reputations maligned. For the sake of the system and in response to opinions from 'professionals'.
A mental health officer is "a specially trained social worker" according to Scottish Government's Guide to the role, and is there to protect the rights of the person under the Act, to support the carer and be an independent professional. Another safeguard is independent advocacy, helping the person to have a voice and take back control. Problems arise when the MHO and advocacy services, both funded by statutory, are not independent. In my opinion.
Then there is the adult protection investigation, undertaken by teams of statutory colleagues, headed up by social work, where anything and everything, said or written in the notes by a professional seems to be taken as evidence. While things said or done by a patient or carer or family member appear to need verification. You may even be under investigation as a carer and unaware of it. For daring to question the psychiatric treatment and human rights issues.
So much for independence. More like collusion and control. Or am I being cynical?
The government's new mental health strategy has 'working more effectively with families and carers' as its first key theme. Has anyone told the social work teams? I recommend training sessions for social workers, led by carers and family members, so that the paid professionals begin to grasp that family relationships are foundational to society. We are the ones picking up the pieces after traumatic treatment and we're in it for the duration, not just for a pay check, a vocation or because it makes us feel good.
I remember way back in my childhood, in the 1950's when involving social work in family affairs was frowned upon and to be avoided at all cost. People would say things like "over my dead body" at the mention of social work involvement. I now understand where they were coming from. The risks can be too high.